Grower Champagne Club – September 2017

R.H. Coutier, Brut Millesime, Grand Cru, 2008, $56
The Coutier family has been based in the Grand Cru village of Ambonnay in the Montagne de Reims since 1619. Today the estate is led by René Coutier who farms nine hectares of vineyards, planted about two-thirds to Pinot Noir and one-third to Chardonnay. Pinot Noir has always been the predominant grape here and René’s father was actually the first vigneron in the village to plant Chardonnay, back in 1946. (We put his fabulous 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs—a rarity for the region—in our club several years ago). The vineyards in the Montagne de Reims develop a more southerly exposure at Ambonnay, providing a warmer micro-climate that tends to produce richer, more sumptuous wines. René’s winemaking style is to balance that richness and opulence with his signature purity and raciness. He uses no oak (except for one cuvée), and only partial malolactic fermentation, and ages all of his wines a minimum of three years in the bottle on the lees. In his vineyards he practices what the French call “lutte raisonée,” using no pesticides or herbicides and working to encourage biodiversity and optimum soil health. This stunning Champagne is from the much lauded 2008 vintage and is a blend of 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay, all from their Grand Cru vineyards in Ambonnay. It has deep, toasty aromas from the Pinot, and is rich and complex, with fresh, bracing acidity and a long, clean finish. It’s a very gorgeous and seductive Champagne! (As we noted before, Coutier still sells about 80% of their fruit to large houses such as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, saving the best for themselves, and keeping their own production at a managable three to four thousand cases annually.)